MERIDIAN TWP, Mich. (WLNS) – We’re three months away from the general election in November and advocates for people with visual disabilities say voting equipment needs to be more accommodating.
A 2015 survey found more than 220,000 people in Michigan have vision problems.
With the primaries this past Tuesday, many people went to the polls to exercise their right to vote, but the blind community says it was not as easy for them because of the equipment they had to use to vote.
“In November we’re going to experience some major issues,” said Mark Eagle, the treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan.
Eagle says voting in the primaries on Tuesday wasn’t easy for himself or other blind voters.
Eagle says the equipment he used to cast his vote is difficult to navigate, requiring visually impaired voters to ask staff for help, but in taking this help, their vote is no longer private.
“It’s just a fundamental part of democracy that we all should be allowed to cast secret and independent ballots,” said Eagle.
Meridian Township Clerk Brett Dreyfus says he’s heard complaints about the equipment, too.
“The voice prompts that people wear, they’re wearing a headset. The audio isn’t necessarily as helpful, so a blind person can’t navigate through the screens as easily as one would expect,” said Dreyfus.
Each county in Michigan orders the voting equipment they want for the visually impaired, after being given options by the state.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum says she’s been working with the blind community to find solutions to these problems.
“My goal is to make sure that every qualified registered voter has an opportunity to safely and securely exercise their right,” said Byrum.
But Eagle says he wants this issue fixed sooner rather than later and he’s going to keep advocating to ensure that every registered voter has an equal opportunity at the polls.
“(I want to) make sure that our voice is heard,” said Eagle. “We’re a minority group and if we don’t go to the polls then we may not have elected officials that represent our views and our concerns.”
The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is in charge of addressing these problems.
They say if any visually impaired person is having trouble voting to file a complaint with them. We’ve posted a link to their website under Seen on 6.